True Measure of Fox’s ‘Following’

Future of rookie drama looks a lot brighter

It’s been a tough season for new Big Four comedies, but the rookie drama class is starting to looking brighter.

After a fall that produced the successful “Revolution” on NBC and “Elementary” on CBS as well as the solid-enough “Nashville” on ABC and “Chicago Fire” on NBC, Fox has found a following for its creepy serial-killer series “The Following.” With “Bones” and “Glee” well past their prime, and the exit of “House” last spring, a new hourlong hit is just what the doctor ordered, especially with the net’s other new fall drama this season, “The Mob Doctor,” a bust out of the gate.

Since it bowed in mid-January, the Kevin Bacon-fronted “Following” has ruled as Monday’s No. 1 drama in adults 18-49 and has consistently built upon its lead-in from veteran crimer “Bones.” In same-night results, the first six outings of “The Following” have averaged a 2.9 rating in the key demo, vs. a 2.3 for “Bones.”

But as is the case with many shows these days, the same-night numbers reported the day after a program premieres tells only part of the story.

“The Following” has emerged as an especially strong performer in DVR playback, gaining an average of 1.9 ratings points (from 3.1 to 5.0) for the first three weeks for which full-week numbers are available. By this measure, it’s neck and neck with “Revolution” and ABC vet “Grey’s Anatomy” as the top-rated broadcast dramas for the season in 18-49 (original episodes only). And in total viewers, “The Following” skyrockets from its average of 9.8 million viewers on Monday night to 14.2 million for full-week viewing.

But even that’s not the whole story.

As the Big Four pester Nielsen to come up with a single-metric rating so that all viewing of their shows is counted — including Video-on-Demand and streaming — networks have begun to take it upon themselves to total up viewing for some shows.

Fox points out, for example, that the 10.42 million viewers on average that “The Following” attracted on Monday nights for its first three airings catapults to 20.09 million when all viewing options are considered. That figure includes 4.68 million viewers in Live+7 (full-week DVR playback), 3.37 million in the show’s weekly television repeats (which aired in primetime some weeks on Friday, others on Saturday), 1.38 million via streaming on Fox.com and Hulu and 1.03 million in VOD (up to 14 days after the show’s television premiere).

It’s numbers like these that make the next morning’s “overnight rating” seem rather quaint when trying to track a show’s true following.

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